I have noticed during this time of seclusion that there are days when I struggle to feel happy. I find myself in the doldrums, feeling bored, vaguely unhappy, and generally distressed. I’m not particularly fond of these feelings. And when I’m there it is easy to just hunker down and stay there, telling myself that this is just the way it is. At these times I feel trapped, dissatisfied with what is going one, uninterested and unmotivated to do anything, and I can even think negative thoughts about myself. I think that this is a pretty common experience.
I don’t want to clean house. I don’t want to watch TV. I don’t want to take a nap. I don’t want to listen to music. I don’t want to talk with my husband. I don’t want to …. Fill in the blank. I don’t like this place. I don’t like just sitting around, feeling sorry for myself. So, what can I do? Just give in to feeling miserable? A very wise woman, Marsha Linehan, once taught me something that I have never forgotten. It has been of immense help to me over the years, and now I’m going to share it with you. This is where I have to begin. First, I must acknowledge that pain, and painful experiences and feelings, are a guaranteed part of life. There is no such thing as a life without pain. DARN! I don’t really like that fact. But here is the second part, it is important that I accept that is what is true. Because I get to choose if I’m going to be miserable in my pain, by whether or not I accept my pain. So here is the magic equation:
Pain + Non-Acceptance of Pain = Suffering (or misery)
So, what do I mean by “acceptance”? I don’t want to accept this pain! It’s terrible! I don’t like it! I don’t want it! If I accept this pain then I’m saying I approve of it, aren’t I?
Well, there is the stumbling block that a lot of people run into when you talk about accepting their pain, no matter what their pain is caused by. And some painful things ARE hard to accept. When you have lost someone dear to you, in the beginning it can be very hard to accept. We don’t want to believe it. But that’s just part of the process. Here is the key to acceptance: Acceptance does NOT equal approval. Approval says you like it, you agree with it, it’s good. Acceptance merely says, “It is’” It acknowledges that things are as they are. It doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything to try and change things if you can. But you can’t begin to change anything until you acknowledge what it really is.
So sit back, look at the discomfort, the pain, and say to yourself, “Well, it is what it is.”
And if you can’t do anything to change your situation, now what? Ahhh, excellent question! Lots of times the situation is beyond our control. This quarantine is beyond our control. The existence of the Corona Virus is beyond our control. Having lost someone or something precious is beyond our control.
So this brings us to another very important point:
Happiness is an INSIDE job.
Even though you might think that you feel happy because of something that happened or something that someone did, that is really not the case. We often say, “It would make me really happy if ….” You can add in anything you want here, like if I had more money, if my husband brought me flowers, if my wife would just cook dinner, if I didn’t have to do all this work, if someone would help me, if I weighed less. Do you get the idea? Problem is, none of these things will really make you happy. There are plenty of people with lots of money, thoughtful husbands or wives, help with tasks, and beautiful bodies. They also have to wrestle with feelings of unhappiness.
So now what? Just as in practicing acceptance, what we tell ourselves about our situation determines what we feel. What we believe is key. So here are a few tips to help you create a little happiness:
So now, go forth and create a little happiness for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.